Why the music industry needs Facebook to launch its own streaming audio service

In my previous article, I talked about how Spotify is getting it wrong by not democratising playlists on its platform, preferring instead to be the gatekeeper where all editorial is concerned. So, let’s start there and continue this logic, and I’ll explain why the music industry badly needs Facebook to get in the game and launch a competitor to Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer et al.

Here’s the thing: labels and artists cannot efficiently advertise on Spotify (or Apple Music for that matter) to promote themselves. It is not possible to access functions akin to those on YouTube, where one can run prerolls, sponsored search results and generally take advantage of a full marketing suite in which to promote something. It is possible to run ads within Spotify, but without going into the details of it here, all data suggests that the value is poor and the entry price is extremely high; not so much if you are a global brand like Coca-Cola or Nike, but for the average label, it is huge.

Without means to advertise on Spotify directly, labels are left with one other option: running ads across other platforms outside of the Spotify app in order to drive people through to listen. But here’s the thing: that doesn’t work especially well either. It took me a while to realise why, but eventually the penny dropped: previously, you’d be pushing people to Apple to buy an album on iTunes, and that was something they could go and do before returning to whatever it was they were doing. The album was purchased and would be on their device to listen to whenever they had a moment.

Now though, we have shifted to an attention economy. It isn’t enough to simply get the sale and pocket the money; now you make money by keeping people listening — and that takes a commitment of time and effort on the part of the listener if you are to recoup anything from your ad efforts.
As things stand then, Facebook remains arguably (though ‘definitely’ in our experience) the most cost-effective way to drive people to platforms like Spotify. Even then though, the insights we see by using Linkfire shows that you get a formidable bounce rate — that is, people clicking on your ad but never actually making it to Spotify. In short, when people are on Facebook, they want to stay on Facebook.

Facebook knows this, too. This is why it created Canvas, a kind of mini-website that pre-caches in your app so that in the event you click on it, it loads super-quick. This ensures two things: first, people aren’t lost to long waiting times. Second, people remain within Facebook. That works for Facebook — but it also works for the consumer.

This is where a music service from Facebook could be quite the game-changer. At a time when attention is everything, Facebook has more means than most to capture that attention and deliver content in a manner that ensures people can retain their user experience on its platform. Sending people to Spotify or Apple Music is clunky by comparison; whilst you can deep-link to the apps (which means the app opens immediately, rather than bounce you out to your mobile browser first), it nonetheless kicks you out of the Facebook experience.

If music were to be integrated in the same seamless manner as, for example, the native video platform that Facebook is working so hard to expand, further friction to listening is removed. Put simply, if Facebook were delivering the audio that you were trying to market, you would almost certainly see more retention on that audio, and earn more money back as a result. Equally though, Facebook has more means that either Apple or Spotify to thread music through its own ecosystem in a truly innovative way. Think about it: in theory, one subscription to Facebook Music could ensure integrated audio playback through not just the Facebook app, but Instagram and WhatsApp too — platforms with a combined userbase of some 3.2 billion.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t a magic wand which will fix things for the music business. However it is something which could ensure as much attention as possible is given to whatever music you are trying to promote — and when attention is not just a funnel to converting you to a sale, but the actual revenue generator itself, that is a critical thing.